The Civil War and the Spirit of Prophecy
by John N. Loughborough

Prediction of the American Civil War
Mrs. Ensign's Testimony concerning Ellen White's Vision
Magnitude of the Civil War
Another Confirmation of the Vision
Slavery and the War
Prediction of Success to the North
Governor's Testimony

Prediction of the American Civil War
On Sabbath, the 12th of January, 1861, just three months to a day before the first gun was fired on Fort Sumter (which was really the opening of the war which resulted in the liberation of 4,000,000 African slaves in America), the Seventh-day Adventist meeting-house in Parkville, Mich., was dedicated.

The service was attended by Elder White and his wife, Elders Waggoner, Smith and the writer. At the close of the discourse by Elder White, Mrs. White gave a stirring exhortation, after which she took her seat in a chair. In this position she was taken off in vision. The house was crowded with people, and it was indeed a solemn place.

After coming out of the vision she arose, and looking about the house, said:-

" There is not a person in this house who has even dreamed of the trouble that is coming upon this land. People are making sport of the secession ordinance of South Carolina, but I have just been shown that a large number of States are going to join that State, and there will be a most terrible war.

In this vision I have seen large armies of both sides gathered on the field of battle. I heard the booming of the cannon, and saw the dead and dying on every hand. Then I saw them rushing up engaged in hand-to-hand fighting [bayoneting one another]. Then I saw the field after battle, all covered with the dead and dying. Then I was carried to prisons, and saw the sufferings of those in want, who were wasting away. Then I was taken to the homes of those who had lost husbands, sons, or brothers in the war. I saw their distress and anguish."

Then looking slowly around the house she said, "There are those in this house who will lose sons in that war."

Mrs. Ensign's Testimony Concerning the Visions

As a confirmation of the above fact, and as proof that the prediction was made on the day stated, and as an illustration of how the congregation understood it and circulated it, the following testimony is given:-" This certifies that I was living in St. Joseph County, Michigan, in January, 1861, about six miles from Parkville. I was not an Adventist. On the 12th day of that month a number of my neighbors went to Parkville to attend meetings. When they came home they told me that there was a woman at the meeting that was in a trance, and who said that there was a terrible war coming on the United States; that large armies were going to be raised on both sides, in the South as well as in the North, and there would be many who would suffer in prisons; and pinching want would be felt in many families in consequence of losing husbands, sons, and brothers in the war; and that there were men in the house who would lose sons in that war." Signed, "Martha V. Ensign, Wild Flower, Fresno County, California, Jan. 30, 1891."

In connection with the prediction of that fearful war, Mrs. White further stated that Seventh-day Adventists

"would be brought into strait places in consequence of the war, and that it was the duty of all to earnestly pray that wisdom might be given them to know what to do in the trying times before them."

Magnitude of the Civil War

At the time of the giving of the vision the Northern people generally had but little, if any, conception of the pending war. Even President Lincoln, three months after (April 12, 1861), when several States had joined South Carolina in her secession ordinance, and the first gun was fired on Fort Sumter, called for only 75,000 men, and these for the short term of three months.

The total number of troops enrolled on the Union side during the war was 2,859,132. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that "the Confederate army numbered, at the beginning of 1863, about 700,000 men," but that it is difficult to ascertain just how many they had enrolled in all. It estimates their death roll at "about 300,000 men." Some of the late encyclopedias place the loss on the Union side (of those killed in battle, or who died of wounds or diseases contracted in the field or in prisons) at 359,528. Of the debt on the Union side the Britannica says:-

" The debt reached its maximum Aug. 31, 1865, amounting to $2,845,907,626.56. Some $800,000,000 of revenue had also been spent, mainly on the war; States, cities, counties and towns had spent their own taxation and accumulated their own debts for war purposes; the payments for pensions will probably amount to $1,500,000,000 in the end. The expense of the Confederacy can never be known, the property destroyed by the Federal armies and by Confederate armies can hardly be estimated; and the money value ($2,000,000,000) of the slaves in the South was wiped out by the war. Altogether, while the cost of the war cannot be exactly calculated, $8,000,000,000 is a moderate estimate." (Encyc. Britannica 9th ed. Vol.XXIII 780)

Another Confirmation of the Vision

As to the prediction concerning the men in the Parkville meeting-house losing sons in the war, I will simply state that in the autumn of 1883 I met the elder of the Parkville church, who was also the elder in January, l861, when the vision was given; and asked him if he remembered the expression made by Mrs. White in relating the vision concerning the war. "Yes," said he, "I do."
"Will you tell me how many you know who were in the house that day who lost sons in the war?"
He at once recalled the names of five, and said, "I know these were there, and that they lost sons in the war; and if I were at home, where I could talk with my people, I could give you more names. I think," he continued, "there were five more, besides these that I have mentioned."

Four years and more of persistent fighting on the part of the South, until nearly half of all the mustered forces were lost by death in battle or from sickness, shows a striking fulfillment of the above prediction.

Slavery and the War

In relating a vision given her Jan. 4, 1862, Mrs. White said:-" Thousands have been induced to enlist with the understanding that this war was to exterminate slavery; but now that they are fixed, they find that they have been deceived, that the object of this war is not to abolish slavery, but to preserve it as it is."

The foregoing was given at a time when the soldiers were required to aid in the work of returning to their masters all slaves who had escaped into the Union lines, and the soldiers are represented as saying, "If we succeed in quelling this rebellion, what has been gained?"
They answer discouragingly, "Nothing.
That which caused the rebellion is not removed. The system of slavery, which has ruined our nation, is left to live and stir up another rebellion."
These words, taken from Testimony No. 7, (1T. 264-265) where a thrilling account of the war is given in full, under the head of "Slavery and the War," do not state that slavery would never be abolished, but represent the situation as the soldiers then viewed it. A little farther along in the same testimony is a prediction as follows:-

Prediction of Success to the North

"And yet a national fast is proclaimed! Saith the Lord, 'Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?' When our nation observes the fast which God hath chosen, then will he accept their prayers as far as the war is concerned; but now they enter not into his ear."

Those who are familiar with the history of the war are aware of the defeats, disasters, delays, etc., connected with the efforts of the North to conquer the Southern forces up to the time the emancipation proclamation was made-Jan. 1, 1863. Then how rapid were the conquests from that time to the close of the war! How evident, to those who were watching the progress of the work, was the fulfillment of that prediction of Jan. 4, 1862. After the burdens were lifted, the bondage was loosened and the yoke broken from the slave! How evident that God heard the prayers of his people, and favored the effort to close the war when they chose the fast pleasing to him!

Ex-Governor St. John's Testimony

In a speech by Ex-Governor John P. St. John, of Kansas, in Ottawa, Ill., to which I listened on the afternoon of June 29, 1891, he made the following statement:-" I was never so disappointed as I was when the [Confederates] whipped us at Bull Run. But it was all a part of God's plan. Had we whipped the [Confederates], the politicians would have hatched up a peace, and the Union would have been continued with slavery, and we would have had it to-day. For two years the [Confederates] had the advantage; but after Lincoln issued the famous emancipation proclamation we had swung round to God's side, and could not lose."

Index for Pioneer Writings

Index of Ellen White Issues

Home Page